Marijuana use is more socially acceptable now than it has ever been before. Recreational use for adults has been legalized in 19 states, and many people now see it as no more dangerous than drinking alcohol. If you try to connect with some of the 2.2 billion people around the world who are online, you’ll no doubt find at least a few groups extolling the benefits of cannabis and how it should be legal everywhere. Times have changed, and to say that public opinion on marijuana has softened over the years is an understatement.
Yet, marijuana is still a drug, one that can affect your health for better or for worse. It’s also still illegal in many parts of the country, with the smallest sentence for trafficking the substance in Texas being 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. It’s not nearly as dangerous as people have been told, but you still need to know about the effects that it can have on your health if you plan to use it for any reason. Here are some of the more important ones to keep in mind.
Damage to Your Lungs
Perhaps the most dangerous part about marijuana is the fact that it is usually smoked. It may not be as bad for you as smoking cigarettes, but marijuana smoke still contains many of the same carcinogens and irritants as tobacco smoke. Smoking marijuana can also increase mucus production and increase your risk of developing bronchitis.
Memory and Brain Health
Marijuana directly affects the parts of your brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, decision-making, coordination, reaction time, and emotion. Anyone who has ever used marijuana has experienced the short-term effects that it can have on their memory, mood, and coordination. These effects usually go away within 24 hours, but long-term marijuana use can permanently impact the brain’s health, especially in younger people whose brains are still developing. More research is needed to know how much of an impact marijuana use has on the developing brain, but it seems to affect attention span, memory, and the ability to learn new things.
Marijuana use can also affect your mental health. This can be a good thing for some people if occasional use helps them relax, but the drug has also been known to cause disorientation and unpleasant thoughts of anxiety, depression, and suicide. Marijuana users are also more likely to develop temporary psychosis, complete with hallucinations and paranoia. There may also be connections between schizophrenia and marijuana use, especially in people who begin using it at a young age.
Marijuana is not as physically addictive as other substances such as alcohol or tobacco, but it is possible to become hooked on cannabis. This condition is known as marijuana use disorder, and it affects approximately three out of 10 people who use the drug. Some of the symptoms of marijuana use disorder include using more marijuana than intended, using it in unsafe situations such as driving a car and prioritizing marijuana use over everything else. For most people, an addiction to marijuana is more psychological rather than physical, but it is still a very real thing that can affect a person’s health.
Marijuana may not be as dangerous as many other substances, and many people do use it safely and responsibly, but you still need to remember that it is still a drug. The average life expectancy in the United States is 78.8 years, but abusing any drug could shorten that significantly for you.
If you do use marijuana recreationally or for medical reasons, keep these health effects in mind, and remember to always use it responsibly.